TOM Bradshaw scored his first goal for Millwall to inspire his side to a fightback against West Brom in the first round of the EFL Cup at The Hawthorns on Tuesday night.
Bradshaw equalised after Charlie Austin had given the hosts the lead, and Aiden O’Brien’s second-half goal was enough to send the Lions into the next round.
West Brom took the lead in the ninth minute when Grady Diangana’s shot looped onto the crossbar off goalkeeper Luke Steele and Austin, on his debut, was first to the ball to head in from two yards.
The Lions were level when Bradshaw headed home Jiri Skalak’s free-kick in the 28th minute. Moments later Semi Ajayi powered a header into the net but referee Ross Joyce had seen a foul on a Lions player.
Baggies goalkeeper Jonathan Bond – one of nine changes Slaven Bilic made to his team from the 1-1 Championship draw between these sides on Saturday – made a superb double save in the 35th minute. First he blocked Skalak’s point-blank effort after Jon Dadi Bodvarsson put the winger through at an angle, and then Bond was quickly on his feet to tip O’Brien’s curled effort around the post.
Millwall went in front 10 minutes into the second half when from Skalak’s corner the ball broke off Murray Wallace and O’Brien scrambled it into the net.
Substitute Shaun Williams had a chance to make it three 20 minutes from time but his back-header was straight at Bond.
Filip Krovinovic had a late curled effort, but Steele read it to make a relatively comfortable catch, and in added-time Ajayi should have levelled but shot into the side-netting from six yards.
Bradshaw finally gets off the mark
It must have felt like a long, long wait. It was 367 days ago, August 11, 2018 in a 2-0 League One win with Barnsley over Bradford, that Bradshaw last celebrated scoring a goal in a competitive game.
He had an early chance after linking up with Bodvarsson, but snatched at the ball as it dropped over his shoulder and his volley went well wide.
Bradshaw took his next opportunity, heading home after Millwall had played their way back into the game with some really good passing.
He had a good understanding with Bodvarsson, the two staying close together up front as they tried to play off each other.
Bradshaw matches Lee Gregory for work ethic, and it’s easy to forget this was only his 13th game for the Lions. He will get better as he gets used to the way Neil Harris’ side play.
He has actually yet to start a competitive game at The Den for Millwall, but that could change this Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday.
Midfielder looks a class act
Jayson Molumby was handed his debut from the start after his summer loan switch from Brighton.
The Ireland under-21 captain – who only turned 20 last week – was always looking for the ball and was very comfortable in possession.
If one pass is not on he’s quick to turn away from an opponent and look for another option. He's also a fierce tackler.
It was Molumby’s first senior competitive game in almost two years, since an EFL Cup tie for Brighton against Bournemouth in September 2017. He didn’t show much rustiness, and on this evidence he should see plenty more action this season and possibly force his way into the first-choice side.
The plan would have been to play him for around an hour, and he could be very satisfied with his performance when he went off for Williams.
Skalak takes his chance
A feature of Saturday’s 1-1 draw here was how well Millwall did to prevent West Brom getting through their midfield.
They weren’t as successful early on this time, which meant the wide players O’Brien and Skalak had to do a lot of defensive work.
But the visitors impressively played their way back into the game with some neat passing football, and Skalak got his chance from set-pieces. Two deliveries led to goals. He also got involved off his wing, worked relentlessly late on to help his side protect the lead, and Harris has several tough decisions to make this weekend.
Harris makes eight changes
Steele, Molumby and Jason McCarthy made their Millwall debuts, while Bodvarsson started for the first time.
Steele was perhaps a bit unlucky to see Diangana’s wicked shot hit the crossbar instead of going over, and he’s another that also hasn’t seen a lot of match action in the last year.
Harris made planned changes just after an hour, and it was a chance to move McCarthy to left-back when Mahlon Romeo – recovered from a bang to the head that forced him off here at the weekend – came on. That kind of versatility, with Shane Ferguson playing in three positions at The Hawthorns over the last two games, could be crucial this season.
There was also a first start for Shaun Hutchinson, who wore the captain’s armband, and he made several blocks and clearances as he looks like he is getting back to his reliable best. Alongside him, Wallace was also outstanding.
Millwall: 4-4-2: Steele; McCarthy, Hutchinson, M Wallace, Ferguson; O’Brien (Romeo, 64), Leonard, Molumby (Williams, 63), Skalak; Bradshaw (Thompson, 79), Bodvarsson.
Subs: Bialkowski, Cooper, Mahoney, Smith.
Image: Millwall FC